Open golfers preparing to chase purse

Gareth Paddison, of Wellington, celebrates his win at the Victorian PGA Championship on February 9. Photo by Paul Shire.
Gareth Paddison, of Wellington, celebrates his win at the Victorian PGA Championship on February 9. Photo by Paul Shire.
New Zealand Open Championship contenders are sharpening their skills as they eye the $900,000 purse at what is expected to be the biggest golf tournament in New Zealand for many years.

It has been more than 10 years since a New Zealand golfer held aloft the Brodie Breeze Trophy and there are several due to play at The Hills and Millbrook Resort, from February 27 to March 2, with their eye on that prize.

Wellington professional Gareth Paddison, who tied for third at the New Zealand PGA in 2013, reminded everyone of his skills with his second win of the Victorian PGA Championship this month.

The 33-year-old is playing with renewed confidence in 2014 after working with coach Denis McDade in the off-season and it paid dividends under pressure with a clutch birdie to win by one from Michael Hendry.

North Harbour pro Hendry, who is looking to win for the third time in as many years at The Hills after successfully defending his New Zealand PGA title in 2013, is also coming into form.

The 34-year-old finished runner-up at the Victorian PGA which was a continuation of his solid season in 2013 that included three wins.

Hendry has a great track record around The Hills and will play the New Zealand Open in the spotlight as one of the players to beat.

Wellington professional Mark Brown also showed he is in good form early in 2014.

The 38-year-old, who is a European Tour winner, finished in a share of sixth place at the Victorian PGA Championship.

Brown had a memorable opening round - a seven-under-par 65 - where he made five birdies and a hole in one of the par 3 17th.

Closer to home, Tauranga professional Josh Geary, who tied for third at last year's New Zealand PGA, has also begun the year on the front foot.

He opened with a three-stroke win at the Masterton-Eketahuna Pro-Am, a runner-up finish to Joshua Carmichael at the Martinborough Pro-Am (who finished eagle-eagle to win) and a share of third place at the Paraparaumu Beach Pro-Am.

Geary has a fantastic record at The Hills and was the leading Kiwi at the New Zealand Open in four of the past five events.